NRLW is approaching and there have been a few warm up nuggets to explore as the four teams prepare for the second installment of NRLW. Aotearoa Warriors have sparked into action on the back of the national women's tournament and there is a certain kiwi rugby league legend who is now dabbling in coach, as Brisbane Broncos play a warm up game in Papua New Guinea.
A few weeks ago, the National Women's Tournament was played with Counties Manukau defeating Akarana Falcons in the final. From that tournament, a tournament team was named and understandably, the Warriors NRLW squad had a hefty presence in the tournament team; Apii Nicholls, Jules Newman, Atawhai Tupaea, Charntay Poko, Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala, Krystal Rota, Aieshaleigh Smalley, Onjeurlina Leiataua, George Hale, Tanika-Jazz Noble-Bell and Crystal Tamarua.
All of that Warriors crew in the tournament team were form either Counties or Akarana as the bulk of female rugby league talent in Aotearoa is concentrated in Auckland. Not that all the talent comes from Auckland though, many players move to Auckland to play at a higher level and one of those who has paved that pathway is Charntay Poko. I've already talked about Poko a wee bit since she made her Kiwi Ferns debut vs Fetu Samoa and after moving to Aucklad from Canterbury, Poko has enjoyed a dramatic rise as she played in the Auckland final for Richmond Roses, made her Kiwi Ferns debut and was named at halfback for the national tournament team.
That essentially makes Poko the best half in Aotearoa right now, which is most likely responsibly for a wee shift in position for Warriors skipper Georgia Hale. Hale played as a middle forward for the Kiwi Ferns to accommodate Poko and that continued into the national tournament, with Hale named at lock for the tournament team. I haven't fully sussed out where different players are likely to play, but the Warriors will either roll out a Poko/Hale halves combination or Poko will be joined in the halves by someone else and Hale will play in the middle.
Also in that tournament team was Ngatokotoru Arakua, named as an edge forward. Arakua was part of the champion Broncos team last season, thus she is part of the Broncos exodus to St George Illawara Dragons for this season. Arakua is joined by Teuila Fotu-Moala, Kimiora Nati and Maitua Feterika who will all lace up for the Dragons this season and after missing the Kiwi Ferns test earlier this year, Arakua appears to be carrying some form into her second NRLW campaign.
The Broncos head to PNG to face PNG Orchids and their squad features Lavinia Gould, Amber Hall, Raecene McGregor and Rona Peters. This squad has kinda been named as a team list, but kinda not, so there is little insight to offer here in terms of who could be in the Broncos team for round one and what position etc. Gould and Peters are veterans and we know what they will offer, so much of my Broncos intrigue sits with Hall and McGregor.
McGregor appears to have been named on the bench for this game and she will need to command a starting role as a half, or settle for that bench utility role. Ideally McGregor plays her way into the starting team as that will have her alongside Ali Brigginshaw who is one of the best players in the world. Last season it was Kimiora Nati in the halves with Brigginshaw, hopeful this season it can be McGregor.
Hall is a largely unknown quantity, having been signed by the Broncos out of Richmond Roses. Hall had made her Kiwi Ferns debut back in 2013 and looks set to hit a next level now that she has returned to the Ferns and grabbed an NRLW contract. The Broncos lost a lot of firepower with Arakua, Feterika and Fotu-Moala leaving, making Hall an interesting middle forward to keep tabs on.
Named as an assistant coach for the Broncos is Simon Mannering. Mannering has shifted over to Queensland since retiring and was an assistant coach for the Kiwi Ferns this year, so helping out with the Broncos NRLW team is a natural progression. Mannering will operate under head coach Kelvin Wright, who was an assistant coach for the Warriors and Kiwis as well as being the Kiwi Ferns coach until recently.
That means that the Broncos have two kiwi coaches on their staff as Wright has emerged as one of the best rugby league coaches from Aotearoa. Wright has coached at every level from club footy to Junior Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns and after handing the Kiwi Ferns job to current coach Justin Morgan, Wright took on the job of head coach at Tweed Heads Seagulls for their women's team and now the Broncos gig. His work with the Warriors would have given Wright the connection to Mannering and now that combo is set up.
Teuila Fotu-Moala served up a few thoughts as the Dragons started their prep...
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Peace and love 27.